Monday, November 19, 2007


Surprisingly, amidst a reasonably extensive music collection here, there are only two punk/new wave albums remaining: The Banshees' Join Hands and Joy Division's Closer. The tremendous Join Hands has aged amazingly well, while most music from that era, albeit exciting at the time, has not. Closer is no exception: a production style that once sounded spacious and original, is now, to these ears, rather weedy and hollow.

That notwithstanding, it's still a moving collection of dark mournful songs, a vast improvement over their first album, and I recall it forming the personal soundtrack to several chapters of Juliette.

So, having never seen even a reasonable music biopic, I was prepared to really hate Anton Corbijn's Control. Even more so because I can't stand the whole stupidly overrated Anthony Wilson/Factory/Madchester/Hacienda scene. But no, totally and utterly wrong. Go see it for yourself.

Ironically, the music in it is neither here nor there, because what's special for me is the moving tale of a vulnerable human being; the kind of candid working-class portrait Mike Leigh has often unsuccessfully attempted. It may well be Deborah, Curtis' widow, who is co-writer here, that should get the credit.

Yet more ironically, lead actor Sam Riley is so extraordinary in his role that he effortlessly outdoes Curtis in almost every way: for mystery, for charisma, for looks, for singing ability, you name it.


_Black_Acrylic said...

I would really recommend the book the film is based on, Deborah Curtis' 'Touching From A Distance'. There's absolutely no rock-star mythologising going on there, just a great account of the prosaic reality.

SYpHA_69 said...

Oddly enough, I just listened to "Closer" for the first time in awhile last night (the recently reissued collector's edition version). I seem to recall "Closer" getting trashed in one of the old Come Org katas:

"after the abrasive atmosphere of their debut this their second turns off like a pail of water on an erection it really is rock and roll shit"

"Join Hands" is a great album, though it doesn't seemed liked by that many casual Banshees fans. Shame really, some great songs on there, "Premature Burial" being one of my personal favorites.

LJP said...

Yeah, that was a good film.

I think the whole Factory Records scene went downhill when they concentrated too much on dance music and the Hacienda.

I did a review of Join Hands on Julian Cope's Head Heritage website.

Thomas Transparent said...

I agree, this is a well-done film- definitely wins through its portrayal of Ian Curtis as a vulnerable human who just happened to be in a band...rather than going for the very typical portrayal of a rock god who is a vulnerable human 'on the side.'

It's worth it to see this with someone who has no clue who or what Joy Division was, since they stand the most to gain from watching it. As I've discovered, the 'fans' are all too willing to tear the movie apart for trivial reasons while you watch it...taking offense at the cover band's rendition of JD songs (even though they're practically played note for note), seeing a Cabaret Voltaire poster on one of the club walls and pointing out that the poster is historically inaccurate by a week, etc....

Richo said...

Still waiting for the film to hit Krakow, but the book it's based on, by Deborah, is a highly absorbing and illuminating read, as Black Acrylic points out. I can still listen to Joy Division and derive the same pleasure from certain songs, too. Nada wrong with the production as far as I'm concerned, either. It works the same for me as, say, Velvet Underground records. And as for 'Closer' getting trashed by Come Org, who gives a flying hoot now? I seem to recall everybody attacking one another back then in an effort to galvanize their own 'more punk than thou' image. Now that nearly everybody's lost their hair, I think the parameters have shifted considerably regarding the whole 'us or them' maxim.

'Join Hands' is also a fine album, of course, but I actually prefer some of The Banshees' delves into more musical territory. A much underrated band, though. Unlike Joy Division...

Michael Begg said...

Join Hands is a one sided album - but what a side!

And personally I still think Closer is beautiful. Simply beautiful. But that's as much to do with the emotional investment over the 2 subsequent decades as it is to do with how it may sound now to spoilt 21st century ears.

I find that one of the joys of reaching one's 40s is that curious sense of being able to pick apart the myths of ones own life to date, the investment in art, the forming of personal icons, the clay moulded from one's youthful obsessions and so forth... and having picked them apart - cherish them all the more in the midst of more immediate obsessions!

bethany said...

i felt completely mixed about the film. yes, beautiful to look at, without a doubt. yes, the acting was very good - esp sam riley. HOWEVER - i felt sometimes as though i was peering into someone's very very private life while i was watching it, looking at things which were absolutely none of my business and which would have been very private things to ian curtis. i felt it was a bit unfair that his legacy was tainted in this film by her perspective as clearly, he may have done things 'wrong' in the marriage and i know the film was meant to be about his personal life, but why? why a film about that? there are so many sides to anyone's personal life, and i think it is right to be left personal and not dramatised. he is certainly in no position to have any sayso in the matter, as to how he was represented and knowing that the film was co-produced by his wife who felt betrayed by him, basically the moral of the story seemed to be what a cnut he was to her and his family. i didnt feel right about it entirely after i finished watching it, though, as i said, it was beautuful to look at, and the music and acting and all was brilliant, i just felt that there was a total slant on the perspective - his wife's.


Miss Kerry said...

I would say, from a perspective that has disability in background, and failing relationships because of it, and problems with everything , because of it- of course she wouldn't see it his way.
No one ever does, having a serious illness, or mental illness esp.
You CANT. And most ignorant people, later on if they gain some perspective, are too ashamed to admit how they treat people with issues.
Things have improved, somewhat for inclusions ( how I hate that word, and the whole process) in serious illness and daily lives, but not bloody much.
Nor have people.Yes Deb I agree, and you have a very compassionate view. Not all people are that clued in.
I would LOVE a Banshees movie! Could revel in that really.
Read the bio of Banshees and its a scintillating read.